Smart-Take: Seasonal Allergies

Millions of Americans suffer from the itching, sneezing, congestion—or worse—that accompanies exposure to seasonal allergens. Allergy symptoms appear when our immune system releases histamine to try to ‘protect’ us from an allergen it has identified as harmful. Histamine causes blood vessels to dilate, leading to the symptoms that make springtime no walk in the park.

The best approach to managing symptoms is to avoid the allergens that cause seasonal discomfort. Of course, that’s not always possible. Fortunately, there are a range of tips for relieving symptoms in your home and while you’re out and about. Here are a few ideas to help:

Make the indoors a safe haven

  • Stay indoors on dry, windy days when allergens are at their most mobile.
  • Close your windows to keep the allergens out.
  • Change your clothes when you come in from the outdoors and rinse pollen from your skin and hair—especially before bed.
  • Perform regular maintenance on HVAC and use high-efficiency filters to keep allergens under control indoors.

Treat your symptoms

  • Irrigate your nasal passages with saline sprays help to wash out pollen, reduce mucous, and restore moisture to dry nasal passages. You can use a spray bottle or a neti pot, but be careful: improper use can lead to infection.
  • Talk to your doctor about a range of natural products—like butterbur—that can be used for relief of mild symptoms or in conjunction with other treatment protocols.
  • Some swear by a steaming cup of peppermint tea to help open nasal passages, or green teas which provide antioxidants that inhibit allergic reactions. Just stay away from chamomile, which is common cause of inflammation in people allergic to ragweed.
  • Oral antihistamines can help reduce sneezing, itching, runny nose and watery eyes.
  • Decongestants can provide temporary relief from stuffiness. Be aware that long-term use of decongestants can actually have the opposite affect—talk to you pharmacist to help you come up with a sensible approach to this and other OTC medications.
  • Keep a diary of your symptoms and triggers and talk to your health care professional about putting together a comprehensive treatment program.

Learn more about allergies and symptom management online, or talk to your independent community pharmacist.